it’s not a label, it’s a bridge (part two)

I know I have ADHD. I’ve worked at embracing that, at changing the way I perceive things about myself because of ADHD, at being more patient with myself because of it. I write about it enough here, and share about it enough elsewhere (like Twitter and Facebook), that I’m cool with people knowing that I have ADHD. But, back in 2013 when I had my psychoeducational assessment done, the tests came back inconclusive for ADHD. They gave me specific points to work off of at school: try certain study strategies, receive accommodations, and consider ADHD medication to see if they alleviated my symptoms. I did all of the above—and they all helped. So, I became more certain that I had ADHD. After several months on meds, I became positive. But, I hadn’t seen it on paper. Paper really changes nothing, I know ADHD is real, I know ADHD in me is real, but paper told me my tests were inconclusive. And I think I needed paper to tell me, inside, even after two years on meds, that inconclusive was no longer the case. So I can finally stop those doubts.

Once a year, I see my psychiatrist. Yesterday was that day. I got a new prescription for Concerta, and asked her to fill out a form enabling me to access support services for students with disabilities, as I plan to return to school in the Fall(-ish) and study web development. Because that’s a good combo with a degree in gym, yeah? I hand my doctor the form, and she fills it out as I stare at her doggy in the corner (her name is Haley and she is cute. I was very excited that my doctor had her in the office today!). I quietly take my phone off the table beside the leather chair I’m sitting in and take this picture. (Haley came to visit me in the waiting room, too.)

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I slide my phone back down, into my lap. Dr. G turns to ask me, “How severe would you say your symptoms are?”
“I thought that was a weird question–I really have no idea how to answer that.”
“Let’s see what psychology said.”
She flips through my chart, reads some pieces of my assessment to answer the question, and continues on with the form. We discuss my previous accommodations, she notes them down and asks me to review the form. Looks good (I realized last night that we forgot to note down the alternate format textbook accommodation, but that can be dealt with).

As I reviewed the form, though, I had to do a double-take.

Diagnosis: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. DSM-V Diagnosis and classification number: 314.00. Retinopathy. Symptoms: inattentiveness, distractibility, some impulsivity, [arrow pointing down] vision. Severity checkboxes. Mild, moderate, and severe with an X beside. X beside permanent condition.

Because, her classification of my ADHD (314.00 on the DSM-V, or “Primarily Inattentive”) as “severe” is a lot different from “inconclusive” that I previously saw in writing.

i would but just can’t seem / to ignore what i can’t see.

—cause, let it happen.

As always, this doesn’t define me, but helps explain me. Like many ADHD-ers, I just felt different for much of my life: it explains the frustration, the self-doubt, the guilt that was associated with not being all people thought I should be, the huge shift I’ve felt in my world on meds, the issues I had in school, the issues I had/have at times interacting with people, the sensory overload, all the freaking feelings that sometimes just overwhelm me. ADHD helps explain that. Those things are all a part of me, and so is ADHD.

Now I know that yes, I fit solidly into this obscurely shaped non-box that is ADHD. I think, maybe, that just knowing that will help me move forward a bit more now. Accept my quirks, accept how they fit into this journey, and to roll with it, ‘cause I’ve seen it not only in me for myself, but on paper for myself.

It’s complicated to coexist peacefully with something that is so much a part of me, but simultaneously has dramatically impacted my life in perhaps not the most positive ways prior to my diagnosis. I can’t do anything about that, though, so I’ll continue to own this piece of circumstance—even if, for today, I can’t grasp the “severe” bit. Though it doesn’t really matter anyways—it’s all about how I choose to see what I’ll do with ADHD today.

i used to blame the circumstance: now i see it’s in my hands.

—effect, let it happen. 

This is what ADHD looks like.
Me.

But, I am far more than ADHD.
And I’ll embrace the good that has come with those four letters, too.

adventures in MN: mini roadtrip summer 2015

I spent the [double long] weekend in Minneapolis. I tried to write a Facebook status update on Sunday about it. It kept turning into a blog post it was so long. Now it’s Thursday and I’m trying to recreate what I had (except that’s impossible, and also I saved it somewhere and think my phone ate it.

Anyways. After a super chill day at camp on Friday (my wish was granted: I got such a chill camper on Friday. He was awesome. He and I hung out in the bean bag chair filled tent for a bit and both discovered we were going to Minneapolis for the weekend, so we talked about what we were going to do there, and he told me these crazy stories from dreams he’s had, and then our morning activity never showed up so he basically played soccer for two hours. Then after lunch (pizza!) some coaches needed to stay back to clean up while the kids and coaches went to the pool/splash pad… I agreed to stay back, and after 45 minutes camp was disassembled, loaded into a couple vehicles, and the kids memory books were assembled. That left… an hour and a half to hang out with the other coaches and camp director and eat freezies. For real.), I left camp early to hit the road to Monticello, MN with my aunt and grandma. The border people are pretty okay with the answer of because Dean is going to school/working in America for the summer, they get tired of us quick and let us keep driving :).

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Minion Twinkies? Yes, please! [I also bought Banana Creme Pie ones. With Minions. Because obviously.]

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The next day, we drove to Minneapolis. Eventually, Dean let us into the building (he had to pay with a check [not cheque] for our guest apartment!), and then we went for a drive to the park.

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Because I like subjecting people to my ADHD sometimes, here’s a picture from back at the apartment. BAGEL WEDNESDAY! Which is not the same as FREE BAGEL FRIDAY from WheezyWaiter videos of old.

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Back to “real time”.

We went to Breugger Bagels and then back to the park to stand on a boat for a couple hours.
It was hot out but there were photogenic things so it was fun. (Are things photogenic or just people?)

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Pano-park-rama.

And here are a bunch of out-of-order pictures from the riverboat tour.

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I took about one decent picture indoors. Then we went outside so that’s the last one with glare.

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Our boat had a crown. Minnesota Queen. (Also, yes, it was the Mississippi River, and yes, there at one point was a Mississippi Queen tour, or maybe there is. And no, they did not play Mississippi Queen by Mountain on there.

Dean was disappointed. Obviously.

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But then we made faces inside a lock as our boat rose. I didn’t intend to look quite that ridiculous, and I probably intended to at least be looking at the camera.

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This is an interesting tree.

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Bridge graffiti interests me.

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Here’s a landslide. Weird, eh?

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We went to Punch Pizza for dinner later that day. I love that place. If you’re in Minneapolis, I highly encourage you to check it out. Also another thing I learned about the next day, is WHIRLYBALL. Yes, that sounds ridiculously fun, even without knowing that it is basically lacrosse in bumper cars. My friend Heather told me about it at lunch at Houlihan’s. Also, when Heather (and her service pup Becca, who gave me a hello shoulder nudge when I got in the car!) picked me up, Heather surprised me with E. L. Fudge cookies! (There was a brief period of time where they disappeared from Dean’s Target, and this worried him. Heather went on a mission, and sent me a picture one day. And sure enough… provided me with E. L. Fudge cookies of my very own! :D).
 
Heather, Scott and I have made it a tradition to get together if at all possible when I’m in the area (they are AWESOME and I highly appreciate this!). This time, we had to sandwich it in between Scott playing basketball in the morning, and Heather having art class in the afternoon. BUT, it totally worked… mostly! :) Scott and Heather ended up tag-teaming a bit, because basketball was super awesome—so, unfortunately, they had minimal hang-out time with the three of us, but I got lots of hang out time with each of them :). Scott drove me back to the apartment where I hung out briefly and then we went to Cupcake on University. (Obviously I love that place, and think you should go there too, if you’re in the area.)
 
When we got back, my aunt continued preparing dinner at the apartment—risotto, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, and chicken wings for the meat eaters—a proper-ish home-cooked meal for Dean and his roommate Derek (…and us, of course). We also went and played frisbee on the lawn of the architecture building briefly. Derek is better than I, but we both aren’t great at catching. Also, it’s hard to catch when Derek repeatedly threw the frisbee six feet higher than me. ;))
 
The next morning, Dean stopped by at 6:30 AM to say goodbye before he went to work (concerning bridges, actually). My aunt took a trip to Breugger Bagels again (because they kept giving us surveys where you got three free bagels?!) for bagels and cream cheese, and then we packed up and hit the road…
 
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Goodbye, Minneapolis.

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…by way of Albertville outlet malls, a Target for lunch (if you’re a smarty like Gerry, no, there is not a dining area in Target!), a Dollar General in Barnesville, Fargo’s West Acres Mall…
 
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and on to Grand Forks for Erbert and Gerbert for dinner (yes, I’m having pb&j and broccoli and cheese soup!)
 
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…plus I still had a cupcake and a half to eat…  
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…and some shopping. 
 
Oh, and the hotel pool at the Expressway in Grand Forks was awesome. Not only was it asthma-friently salt water, we think, it also had pretty coloured lights in it! And a basketball hoop in the pool!
 
And that’s about it, so we went home. (Or that’s about it because we went home. Whatever.)
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I still want to play Whirlyball, obviously. It’s on my list for next time. 😉

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camp | ups and downs: not just for trampolines.

Part of me has always wanted to be a camp counsellor. Two summers ago, I spent a week at camp as a one-to-one support provider. And there’s a part of me that, yes, was right before going into that: there is a lot of emotional stamina needed to invest in the kids you are leading 24-hours-a-day, and sometimes, it is hard to have that stamina all day. To be able to pour into campers in a meaningful, patient, intentional way all.day.long.

When I saw a posting for a “camp coach” position at a sports day camp for ten-to-fourteen-year-olds with autism, I didn’t hesitate much to apply. I quickly heard back, chatted with the camp director on the phone, we met to talk (remember, my interviews never really end up being interviews properly) at a Tim Horton’s, and here we are a few weeks later, the night before the last day of camp.

Day camp is way more my thing, probably, than overnight camp. I shadow-ish a camper all day, I rotate campers every day, and we have fun. Mostly. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had successes, sometimes I feel like I do not know nearly enough to do this job. I’m learning. I alternate between “it’s only a week” and “I can’t believe there’s only one day left, it’s gone so fast”. The week was packed. I think today might have been the least packed day and really not even because we went to the trampoline park this morning.

I played dodgeball on a trampoline today. I bowled with the other coaches and totally lost with a 91. With bumpers. My camper from day 1 ended up being my camper for half of day 2, and proceeded to call me a monster both days, except he also hugged me because he was so excited about how awesome the bowling alley was. My camper today resisted a lot and then suddenly became a whirlwind of engagement towards the end of the day. I’ve argued. I don’t really argue in a way that is convincing, probably. Come into the gym for two minutes and see what’s going on, just two minutes. You have another minute left to play Lego. I played laser tag for the first time (I was 28 out of 29. I’m a professional). I’ve high fived campers for giving compliments to one another unassisted. One of my Special Olympics athletes is a camper this week, and I’ve had the joy of seeing him smile as he calls “Hi Kerri!” to me whenever I walk by. I played beanbag toss with my camper today for a long time after he tried so hard to get another camper to play with him, they just weren’t interested (it’s really challenging when all the kids have all these goals they want to/should complete and yet are supposed to engage with other campers to check the stuff off their lists. I’ve watched campers practice asking one another to play, practice complimenting each other, help prepare lunch, and test themselves. I’ve watched them be happy and sad and angry and jealous. Food has been thrown and hits have been thrown—and not just in Tae Kwon Do yesterday—and toys have been thrown and things that are meant to be thrown have been thrown. My camper on Monday was surprisingly fond of Shapes (the fitness centre). Camp songs have been sung. Hello, my name is Joe, and I work in a button factory. I’ve got a wife, two kids and a dog, woof. One day my boss says “Joe, are you busy man,” I say “No, man,” He said “Push this button with your right hand. Non camp songs have been sung. Call Me Maybe?! My team got second place in a cup stacking/design tournament and we talked about good sportsmanship again. I’ve felt connected and disconnected and frustrated and elated.

And I still don’t know if it’s for me, but you know what? I’ll never know if I don’t try and I’ll never learn how to be better if I don’t try either. So, one more day, I’ll keep trying. It could be the least or most challenging day yet. And I won’t find out until I jump in there one more time, and give’r. Because hopefully this week teaches the campers a handful of the things it’s teaching me.

At least tomorrow my camper is not taller than me. Unless he grows a foot overnight, anyways—and I might not even allow myself to be surprised by that. Guess it’s called Adventure Camp for a reason. Oh, and if there’s a place to forget to take my Concerta, I guess a camp is a pretty good place—even better when your brain can switch gears as quickly as the campers’.

A camper also told me the pink space car I made out of Lego looked like it was out of Cloud Cuckoo Land from The Lego Movie.

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I’m not sure I see it anywhere:

But hey, it seems fitting. Pink fun and all.

Also I found this kind of disturbing .gif. While I’ll leave you with. Because WTF.

dinosaur and ronald mcdonald beat up batman, lego version. underneath caption reads

a season to be well.

A season.

Lower portion of tree with lake behind it

Another, to be well. To become well. To realize anew that this is not a passive act–I can exist, or I can live well and be fulfilled. And these fulfilled seasons are the ones I remember. The ones where I know myself and where I am headed and maybe even feel connected to the One who is coauthoring this story with me–the same God that Jenny Simmons refers to, in her book The Road to Becoming, as the Storyteller.  I am here to live a story, not a passivity.

I wasn’t looking
I wasn’t ready
kicking and screaming
tired of believing by myself
I never would have done it on my own.
oh but You,
You were never gonna let me go
You took me

straight to the Healer
You were my believer
when I couldn’t even see it for myself
and now I’m whole, I can feel it
now I can see it when I couldn’t even say it for myself
You said “it’s time to be well”

no man’s an island
we need each other
no use in hiding
no pain in lying to myself
cause I don’t have to do this on my own
with You, I don’t have to walk this road alone

You tore a hole in the roof and You laid me down
just to make me well, just to make me well
You tore a hole in the roof and You laid me down
…and He made me well, and He made me well.

–time to be well, jenny simmons 

Yes, I’ve lost time by circumstances out of my control. Yes, I’ve (even worse) neglected time. But these are chapters in my story, too. Just, the next one(s), I’d like to write more intentionally; explore plot lines deeper, know characters more thoroughly–connect with myself, my circumstances, and the people around me, playing important parts in this story as well as their own stories. In this next chapter I want to embrace the chaos through interacting with it. To work on embracing the moments as they come and appreciating the little things. To be grateful. To own my mistakes and say sorry. To practice more self-care and define what that looks like for me, and begin yet again to work at feeling things and feeling better in all ways: I know from experience I am happiest and feel best when I connect with myself in ways that don’t let my mind and body and spirit exist separately, but together. Things like exercise and meditation and how physical activity especially helps to make my ADHD a strength rather than another source of struggle, how both of the above allow me to use my brain and body in tandem rather than simply as vehicles for one another. And, as for the Storyteller, yes, it’s challenging myself to dig in to this act of spirituality as well. After years of struggle with this, I had a realization today, after I’d been toying with a little more interest in the Bible the last few days. I’ve always been candid that I do not believe in infallibility of the bible, yet attending church in previous seasons caused me to be frustrated by this fact–because I was supposed to believe everything in there and I didn’t. Today, I realized while reading The Road to Becoming: “What if I stop looking at the bible as a thing I have to believe every word of, and instead as another thing to explore?”

shoreline of rocks with lake behind, and row of forest/trees in distance with cloudy evening sky above. I am opening my eyes to exploring.  Really, everything above: from exercise and nutrition and writing and meditation and creating things and being connected–owning my life, in other words–is all about exploring. Discovering where the map for this season, this chapter leads me. Where I am going and how I am going to interact with what surrounds me. It is all about choice.

So why am I not choosing these things? Because it’s work. It means changing myself within my circumstance in tandem with accepting where I’m at. Yet, I know this is important, and that I should make these smallish huge acts of self-care a priority. I can create excuses but I can also create change. And I know my body, and my spiritual and mental wellbeing will thank me for one far more than the other.

I need, though, to stop trying to do this on my own. Because my excuses to remain stuck sound a lot less dumb in my head and I should be forced to admit them more often.

You took me / straight to the Healer / You were my believer / when I couldn’t even see it for myself / and now I’m whole, I can feel it / now I can see it / when I couldn’t even say it for myself / You said “it’s time to be well”

The people I’ve coached to make positive life changes… I have always told them to do it with someone. I have frequently volunteered to be that person. Time to take my own advice ;). Sometimes, an app is not enough–positive peer pressure can be.

the young want to change the world
the wise want to change themselves
the young want to change the world
but i just want to change myself.

spent, let it happen (spotify link)

For now, this season, I need to change myself.
Again. Continually.

Cabin to left side, flowers focused in foreground with lake and trees behind in distance, unfocused.
it is time to be well.
it is time to grow.

smart girls with adhd (and a story)

Within the last few days, I’ve become connected with Beth of Smart Girls with ADHD.

And let me say… I LOVE THIS.

People with ADHD are usually creative, idea generators, outside-the-box thinkers, and… yes, SMART!

The hard part is, often, we don’t feel like we’re smart. I sometimes feel like all of the awesome associated with having ADHD has been overshadowed by the struggles I experience because of ADHD. I’ve said it many times: I am relieved I can explain some of my quirks through disclosing my ADHD… but, in no way do I wish to become defined by it—nor do I want to use it as an excuse. ADHD is a part of me—I’m okay with talking about it, self advocating: I say it frequently on #LDchat: put it in terms people understand, in context. Situation + adaptation.

“I have ADHD[/learning issues], and [in x situation], I may need [y adaptation].”

I have ADHD and learning issues, and when learning a new skill, I may need the steps written down.

I have ADHD, and in a long lecture, I may need to quietly slip out to go do a few flights of stairs.

I have ADHD, and it helps me to study with earphones in so I can block out the external noise and focus on only one source of sound—yes, seriously.

I have learning issues, so if you can provide visual information to me in words, this works a lot better for me.

I have ADHD, and I sometimes get overwhelmed in large group conversations. I may need to ask for clarification. I have processing speed issues, so sometimes I need to jump back a few bullet points to catch up.

I have learning issues affecting my visual memory—this makes me terrible at names, so please remind me of yours and I’ll keep trying!

I will keep trying.

Another real life story:
A few weeks ago, I went into work, and was told we didn’t have a paper schedule for the tennis matches for the day. I usually use my paper schedule to write down court numbers and check in players so all the information is right in front of me, but I figured it was a good learning opportunity to try to be efficient using the computer. I did okay but struggled a bit. The next day, I opted to print my own schedule of the matches (to alter!) to help keep me organized—except, I failed to cross-check with the computer, and told a doubles team to come at the wrong time as based on my paper schedule. Let’s say their opponents weren’t impressed, but thankfully didn’t ream me out!

That’s when it’s hard: when I try my hardest to be smart. To work with it. To work with what I know is a challenge for me, and then I still mess up.

Yet, being diagnosed with ADHD was what taught me I am not stupid. As a girl with ADHD, I don’t present the same way as boys do: I’m not necessarily hyper—or not hyper in the same ways; I’m not loud when I’m not supposed to be; I can often sit for long periods of time—sometimes I can be lucky enough to hyperfocus when it’s opportune. But just because it doesn’t look like what people perceive ADHD as, doesn’t mean I don’t have it. Just because people see me as smart, just because I seem to be doing well, just because, because, BECAUSE… doesn’t mean anything. I compensate to make things work—sometimes I don’t even think about it—but I put more effort into a LOT of things than people would ever guess to make it look like I’ve got it together.

It took my ADHD diagnosis to realize I’m not stupid.

To phrase that again:

Being diagnosed with ADHD taught me I am smart.

And I will keep trying.

 

Thanks to Beth for making me an admin of the Smart Girls with ADHD Facebook group. If you’re a woman with ADHD, I hope you’ll join us!